by Fortious Nhambura
Chicken imports have flooded Zimbabwe barely a month after the lifting of a ban on such imports.
Many chicken lovers say the imports from South Africa, Brazil and Turkey are not as tasty as local produce but they cannot afford what the Zimbabwean farmer is giving them. This has left members of the Zimbabwe Poultry Association stuck with tonnes of chickens they cannot sell. Many have to repay finance facilities they accessed to produce the birds and the money is just not flowing in.
So what makes local chickens so expensive?
Mr Solomon Zawe, the ZPA chairman, says it costs US$2, 85 to rear one chicken in Zimbabwe.
On the other hand, it costs just US$1 in Brazil.
“So even after the transport, the bird has a landing price of US$1, 90 when it gets to Zimbabwe. “They can then sell the chicken for between US$4 and US$5 and make a massive profit. That is possible because the chicken producers in other countries are heavily subsidised by the state.”
The US$1, 90 landing prices translates to 86 percent of the total production costs of rearing a single bird in Zimbabwe.
A day-old broiler chick costs between US$1 and $1, 05 and requires about US$2, 50 to feed it to maturity. Dressing, packaging and transportation bring the cost to US$4, 15 for large-scale producers. The costs go up for small-scale farmers.
And after all these comparisons and the realities of breeding in Zimbabwe, the ZPA blames some retailers for further pushing up costs.
Mr Zawe says: “The problem is that government does not control the marketing of poultry products and retailers end up putting huge mark-ups to chicken. The wholesale price of a 2kg packet of chicken is US$4, 15 . . . but it is sold for up to US$9 in shops.”
Mr Zawe believes that the great potential inherent in the industry is being stymied by imports. The ZPA says 10 000 birds could be lost monthly if local producers are not protected.
Day-old broiler chick production has increased from 700 000 per month in January 2009 to 3, 1 million in March this year. Egg production has also increased. Formal sector production has shot up from 275 000 dozens in January 2009 to 1, 5 million in June 2010.
“We encourage government to come up with a mechanism that allows imports and discourages dumping of products. This will inspire confidence in the whole agriculture sector. Farmers in Brazil and South Africa survive in a different climate and should never be compared to us. Pitting the local producer with importers will be unfair competition as local producers have to use non-GMO feed additives.”
These are all very convincing arguments and many people sincerely do sympathise with poultry producers. But at the end of the day, money talks, and people do not have much in their pockets.
As Mr Nyasha Matsinde of Glen Norah B says: “We buy what we can afford.”